Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Michael Ryan's Big Adventure

Today Michael Ryan is 10 days old. That means that we have been out of the hospital as long as we were in it to begin with. Only the last 5 days have gone by much faster than the first 5 days.

I think I've done a pretty good job at trying to recuperate from surgery and not push myself too hard. After three days on the couch with my legs up and darling husband fulfilling my every request (within reason, of course!), I decided today was a good day to run some errands. My mother came up to shop with Michael and me - and to help me do all the heavy lifting & driving, as I am restricted from both activities.

We took little MR to the mall. And it was insanely busy inside. I realized two things on our adventure this afternoon. #1) I love my Chico stroller. It turns on a dime and takes very little effort to push. #2) Other women cannot resist a newborn. I found myself in conversation with so many women, whether we were in the bathroom or the check-out line. They all wanted to know Michael's age - and I was amused by the responses when they found out he was 10 days old. "Good for you for getting out!" one woman told me.

It seemed strange to me. Why was I being applauded for leaving my home so soon after the birth of my child?

Having returned home, totally exhausted, I understand a little better their supportive statements. It's really difficult to go with a newborn, in maternity clothes that don't fit because regular clothes don't fit either (one big motivation for shopping today), and walk all over creation to participate in consumerism. I can't imagine trying to shop without my mother helping me! Every errand takes longer to fulfill and I get worn out so quickly from walking. Not to mention the fact that I have make pit-stops along the way to care for my hungry/wet son.

How in the world am I going to manage these errands on my own in just a few weeks?

Luckily, I still get to cash in the post-surgery sympathy card at the moment. I plan to focus on resting up and healing myself so that when the day comes for me to make due on my own I will be ready for the challenge. Right now, however, I am going to take a nap.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Best Laid Plans....

...often go awry. Isn't that the truth? Here is the second half of Michael Ryan's birth story, and how I've had to deal with many unexpected events this week.

After Michael was born our whole family met us in the recovery room. It was beautiful to see the joy on our sisters' and parents' faces. Michael's godmother was even able to meet him, only 5 hours before she had to hop on plane for California. I spent our first night together just staring at his precious little face and watching the sunlight gradually brighten my hospital room. I just couldn't believe he was really mine... And then our families returned on Saturday to hold and cuddle and photograph the adorable new member of our clan.

I noticed throughout the day that my poor little man was having a hard time breastfeeding because he couldn't breathe very well. His little nose was so congested. After awhile we called the nurses to see if they could help him. They tried, but it didn't seem to make a difference. And soon Michael was getting fussy and starting to cough from his congestion. When the nurses returned the 2nd time they brought NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) with them. I was so tired and out of it that when NICU told me to kiss my little boy good-bye I didn't understand why - wasn't he only going to be gone for an hour or so?

About half and hour later I realized that Michael wasn't coming back anytime soon. And so we embarked on four very long and stressful days, waiting for our son to be released from NICU. Saturday night I was an emotional wreak. The c-section had already interfered with my bonding to Michael Ryan, I was beyond exhausted from zero sleep the night before, and now the NICU was holding by baby hostage from me. All I could do was cry myself to sleep all night long.

I spent Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday racing back and forth the the NICU to breastfeed Michael Ryan whenever he started to fuss. It was a long process just to get down there. First I had to take care of myself and make sure I'd received pain meds before I left. Then I would hole up in my corner of the NICU with Michael and try not to tangle myself in his IV and monitor cords while attempting to learn how to breastfeed him. I quickly became friends with the nurses and lactation consultants during our stay!

It was so gut-wrenching to go into the NICU. I missed my son, of course, but at least he was full-term and fairly healthy. The doctors wanted to moniter him because they thought he swallowed meconium and they wanted to make sure he was getting enough nutrition with his late start to breastfeeding. All the other babies though... They were so tiny, smaller than my hand. And I would see their mothers come in, day after day, with no hope of going home anytime soon. At least I could hope to be home for Christmas, only a few days away. I spent a lot of time praying for those other babies, as I held my son who was 2 or 3 times bigger than each of them.

It was a rough four days for Ryan and I. At first we thought we might get to go home on Monday or Tuesday. Then it was Tuesday or Wednesday. Each time the doctor came to update us it seemed like Michael's release date was pushed back. And we just couldn't understand why. All I wanted was to take my little boy home for Christmas!

The other challenge with the NICU was how extremely crowded they became while we were there. It seemed like for each baby that was sent home, 2 or 3 new ones would arrive in his place. Michael Ryan was definitely taking up space that NICU needed for the really sick babies. Ryan and I watched as the rooms became more and more full with little preemie babies.

Finally, on Tuesday night I was officially released from the hospital. Because Michael wouldn't be allowed go home until Wednesday, Christmas Eve, at the very earliest, Ryan and I opted to stay in a "parent room" free of charge at the hospital. We packed up all our bags and moved into another smaller hospital room down the hall. When we went to breastfeed him that evening we couldn't find our little guy in his usual spot! He had been moved to a tiny edge of the room, a little peninsula in the paths of the nurses. The NICU was so crowded that we couldn't even find a spot to nurse our little boy. A nurse had to bring him down to our parent room to nurse and then we had to call for them to take him back when he was finished. It was insane! Why couldn't we just go home?

That's when the NICU had the idea to move us into one of the internal parent rooms, right off the NICU corridor. They would let us sleep in the room with Michael Ryan as long as he was on a monitor. It was like a halfway deal - we did the work of the nurses to free them up, and in return we were "allowed" to sleep in the same room as our son. So Ryan and I packed our bags again and waited to be called down the NICU room. I truly felt like we were Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus with no room for us in the inn.

Sleeping in the tiny parent room (filled to the brim with a pull-out couch, recliner, and Michael's rolling crib) was less than comfortable, to say the least. And the monitor would go off in these spastic binges of noise that we weren't able to quiet. In addition, Michael was beginning to jaundice and the doctors were extremely hesitant to release him if his bilireuben levels continued to rise. I wasn't sure if I would be able to survive one more night of sleepless chaos and I was quickly nearing my breaking point.

At last the dawn broke (not that we could tell, as the NICU parent room had no windows) and the doctor release Michael to our care on one condition - we had to take him to a medpoint on Christmas day to do another bilireuben level check. Anything, we told him, would be worth getting to leave this hosptial on Christmas Eve! The last hour was another agonizing wait for the necessary paperwork and suddenly we were in our own car, free to go whereever we pleased. It was like walking out of a dark movie theater into the afternoon sunlight, disorienting but very pleasing nonetheless.

Our little family spent a wonderful Christmas Eve at home with my parents and sisters. I was still exhausted, but so glad to be on my own turf. After 5 nights in the hospital, I finally slept soundly in my own bed, with Michael Ryan cuddled next to me. We woke up the next morning and even made it to Christmas Day mass. I spent a beautiful 24 hours with my family, sans hospitals.

Then we had to go back.

Another day, another challenge. The medpoint where we stopped at to get the bilireuben test for Michael was unable to accommodate us because they were all out of small vials! So off we went to the ER and back to the hospital I just left the day before. We spent over an hour in an empty waiting room before we discovered that someone had dropped the ball and forgotten about us. So, it took us about 3 hours to receive a 1o minute test - and I was again frustrated and exhausted from medical mayhem.

Our Christmas day ended on a more pleasant note with another family gathering at my in-laws' home. All in all, I received the best gift I could ever want - our firstborn son in my arms and at home on Christmas day. He is so perfect and beautiful and absolutely wonderful to behold. I am in awe at God's gift to us, a tiny and trusting little eternal soul to care for the rest of our lives. Even though my hopes for Michael Ryan's birth were different than the outcome, I know that God's plans are always better than my own. Perhaps it is a grace that my plans go awry - so that the greater glory of God will be known.

To read Part I of Michael's birth story, go here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Announcing the Birth of Michael Ryan!

Our dear little Advent gift was born on Friday, December 19th at 11:49pm. He came out via an unexpected c-section because the little bugger was breech and we've had a crazy week ever since. The best part of this whole birth experience has been getting to know our newborn son. He has so many cute expressions and ways to tell us what he is thinking or wanting. I've totally and utterly fallen in love with Michael Ryan - and all he does is eat, sleep, and poop!

Here is our story.

Friday morning I woke up in early stage labor, but I wasn't sure it was for real. It didn't really hurt and as I had no idea what a contraction felt like... It was all new to me. What tipped me off was my insane nesting attack throughout the day. Ryan and I cleaned the whole apartment, did some major reorganization of pantries and closets and piles of gifts. And I was determined to wrap all my Christmas gifts before the little guy came. We almost made it.

My water broke at 6:00pm and we were off to the hospital by 7:15pm. At that point I knew it was real labor, and everything was moving fast. They checked me at 8:00pm and I was already 5 cm dialated.

Ryan and I had already decided to go for a natural birth and we just finished our Bradley Method classes on Wednesday. This is the part of the story where Ryan really shines. He eased right into the role of coach and made my labor so easy to deal with. My pain was centered in my back and Ryan spent most of labor massaging all the sore spots and applying counter-pressure during contractions.

All I wanted to do that night was soak in a nice warm bath in the hospital jacuzzi - especially since we don't have a bathtub in our apartment! First, however, the nurses had to give me penicillin drip because I tested GBS positive. It took us an hour just to get the meds to the room (thanks to hospital chaos) and then I had to wait another 30 minutes for the antibiotic to drip into my IV (which, by the way, is rather painful and worse than the actual contractions). It was about 10pm by the time I was going to be allowed to crawl into the tub. And then I felt sick...

So they checked me again. This time, however, the nurse didn't say anything. She just told us that she wanted to take a scan. It turned out that the little stinker had flipped around in the womb and was definitely butt-side-down breech. Suddenly there was a change in plans. Here I was, nearly ready to push him out and really starting to feel those contractions, and they were telling me I have to have a c-section instead. My midwife wouldn't be able to turn him around because I was too far along in labor, at least 9 cm dialated at this point, and they didn't want to risk a prolapsed cord or some other distressing turn of events.

It took another hour to get me from my laboring room to the surgery room. The waiting period was bit extended because my midwife had yet to arrive. It turns out that on her way to the hospital she was hit by a drunk driver! Luckily, she was fine and she made it to the c-section just in time.

I think this was the most difficult time in my labor, both physically and emotionally. The contractions were really intense, but I would have been fine if I knew I got to push soon. Changing plans to a c-section, however, kind of broke my spirit. I no longer wanted to deal with the pain and was totally focused on when the doctors would "take it away." It was a very challenging hour, especially when they had to separate me from Ryan during my surgery prep.

And so, the doctors numbed me up with a spinal block and proceeded to cut my baby out of me. After having gone unmedicated through most of labor and then experiencing a c-section, I can tell you that I prefer the labor pains to the "pain-free" c-section. Give me natural birth any day.

Michael Ryan entered the world by a different route than I had anticipated, but I can truly say he was worth it. Ryan was able to cut the cord, put on his first diaper, and then cuddle our little boy skin-to-skin on his chest while I was being put back together. I am so thankful for Ryan's calm and levelheadedness that night. He freaked out a bit when he found out I had to undergo surgery, but he didn't show it to me. I was also very peaceful about having a c-section. I knew that I did the best I could for our son and sometimes the best laid plans go awry.

And man, oh man, did our plans go awry this last week! I'll have more on this in a continued post...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Good Read

Ryan and I recently stumbled on a good book: The Good Girl Revolution by Wendy Shalit. We do this thing where we read out loud to each other (Ryan says it feels like we should be in a Victorian reading room) and discuss our thoughts as we go. Needless to say, we don't move through the book very quickly. But it sure has beefed up our conversations this week. And I'll take any distraction I can get while waiting for Michael Ryan to arrive!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hangin' With My Hubby

Ryan is on hall duty tonight. That means we get to sit quietly in our apartment with the door open from 10pm to 2am to make sure the boys are following all the rules. Ryan's job is enforcer. My job is moral support.

I am so tired - this is all I can think to write. It doesn't help that it just now took me a solid 5 minutes to remember the term "moral support" (and I reacted with disdain and disbelief when Ryan vocalized the phrase for me - until I realized he was, in fact, correct).

Only an hour and a half to go...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

38 Weeks

In This Second Week of Advent...

...I am very tired.

The baby gestational clock is really ticking now. And I am starting to feel the discomforts at the end of pregnancy. It's funny how eventually the bodily pains and impatience overshadow any fears of labor pain. I just want Michael Ryan out! But not at this very moment. He's under specific orders to wait until Baby Sister returns home from Europe on the 14th. And then Ryan is finished with his semester on the 15th. Come anytime after that. Preferably before the 17th - when M.R.'s godparents leave for California. Got all that little-one-in-womb?

With the arrival of Advent, I have been so much more aware of Michael Ryan's impending birth. He really could be a Christmas baby, with a due date on the 21st. And I have a wonderful feeling of communion with the Virgin Mary, waiting for my son, as she waited for her son Jesus to be born. It gives me a deeper perspective on the meaning of Christmas. To think of Mary riding on a donkey for endless miles also keeps me from complaining about my own inconveniences!

I've been trying to take it very slow this Advent season - to really reflect on the season and the coming Christmas celebration. It's been nice to be done with my job, to be able to spend those 40 hours a week working on other projects with an unhurried pace. I am slowly completing a list of tasks before Michael Ryan arrives. Slow is the key word here.

My successes so far: washing & organizing the baby clothes, putting up Christmas decorations, purchasing almost all the Christmas gifts, and (finally!) finishing baby thank you notes. I've also typed up a birth plan, selected a family doctor, and attended my first Le Leche League meeting. I feel about 80% prepared for Michael's birth - enough that I am not freaking out, but all is not quite finished. I still have a stack of baby gifts to sift through & organize, those Christmas gifts need to be wrapped, and I have a couple of photo album projects I would really like to complete. Each day I just try to do the best I can and go to sleep in peace with what I have accomplished.

In this second week of Advent...

...life is good - even if I'm tired.